Genentech, 23andMe team up to discover if social media can point breast cancer researchers toward answers on Avastin
Genentech's Philippe Bishop.
Breast cancer survivor Christi Turnage had a “what-if” moment as Genentech Inc. and federal regulators debated the fate of Avastin as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer. What if Avastin worked even better than the South San Francisco-based biotech giant intended — like it had with Turnage? What if she belonged to a subset of metastatic breast cancer patients who are “super-responders” to Avastin? And what if a study could find biomarkers, or signals, woven into those women’s cells that could easily identify super-responders and get them on Avastin faster? Genentech listened, especially after the FDA in November revoked approval for metastatic breast cancer of the world’s best-selling cancer drug. The result is a study with a social media twist, thanks to DNA analysis company 23andMe Inc. But what makes the study unique is that patients aren’t receiving any drugs. They aren’t referred by a doctor, and they aren’t even required to go to a predetermined clinical trial site. The only requirements are Internet access, a wad of spit into a cup and, if participants choose, a blood sample.